Captured in the marshlands of southern Denmark, Søren Solkær’s ongoing project documents one of nature’s most mesmerizing phenomena. BLACK SUN focuses on the quiet landscapes of the Danish photographer’s childhood where nearly one million starlings congregate during the vernal and autumnal seasons. Set at dusk, the photographs frame the migratory birds as they take to the sky in murmurations, amorphous groups that transform the individual creatures into a unified entity.
The fluctuating flight patterns swell above the horizon as the birds move from tree to tree or sometimes, in response to an impending threat. “Now and then, by the added drama of attacking birds of prey, the flock will unfold a breathtaking and veritable ballet of life or death,” Solkær says, further comparing their airborne appearance to inky sketches or calligraphy. He expands on the starlings’ adaptability:
At times the flock seems to possess the cohesive power of super fluids, changing shape in an endless flux: From geometric to organic, from solid to fluid, from matter to ethereal, from reality to dream—an exchange in which real-time ceases to exist and mythical time pervades. This is the moment I have attempted to capture—a fragment of eternity.
BLACK SUN culminates in a forthcoming book by the same name, which will be released November 16 and is available for pre-order in Solkær’s shop, along with prints and some of his other works. Follow the photographer on Instagram to keep up with his phenomenological projects.
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Vietnamese artist Duy Huynh (previously) examines balance through nuanced scenes replete with ethereal, surreal elements: individual flowers ascend from a teapot, a chain winds around an artichoke heart, and figures float mid-air. Rendered in muted hues, the acrylic paintings are metaphorical and narrative-based, visualizing stories by connecting unusual symbols or positioning disparate objects together. The North Carolina-based artist gives the works witty names— “Thyme to Turnip the Beet” and “ReciprociTea,” for example—adding to their playful and whimsical natures.
In a statement, Huynh writes that the core of his practice involves drawing connections “between two or more mysteries,” which he explains further:
My characters often float (literally) somewhere between science and spirituality, memory and mythology, structure and spontaneity, ephemeral and eternal, humorous and profound, connectivity and non-attachment. The intent isn’t necessarily to provide enlightenment but to celebrate the quest itself.
Huynh co-owns Lark & Key, where his elegant paintings are part of a group show that’s on view through November 28. Limited-edition prints and greeting cards of his works are available through the gallery, as well.
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Painted on Vintage Postcards, Flora and Fauna Celebrate Farming Traditions and Wildlife of the Midwest
Twenty-seven years ago while studying at the University of Illinois, illustrator Diana Sudyka (previously) retrieved a bundle of postcards from a dumpster. The ephemeral correspondence revealed a relationship between farmers and workers from the Harvard area and a man named John Dwyer, either their accountant or investor who lived throughout Chicago, Cicero, and Berwyn. Dated from 1939 to 1942, the short letters generally contained information about livestock sales and farm expenses.
Now based in the Chicago area, Sudyka repurposes the envelopes as canvases for her watercolor and gouache paintings of flora and fauna native to the Midwest. “I have a strong attachment to the envelopes for various reasons, not least of which is that I was born and raised in Illinois, and spent a good deal of time in rural areas of the state,” she shares with Colossal. The penmanship, patina, and markings on the paper all inform her decisions to reflect a particular shrub or beetle duo amongst the remaining postmark and stamp. “I am drawn to the beauty of the handwriting on the envelopes, and the variation in the inks used,” she says, also noting her affinity for the assembled artworks of late artist Joseph Cornell.
Through delicate depictions of squirrels and long-legged herons, the illustrator connects her own experience enjoying the region’s bucolic settings with the decades-old content of the letters. “I often think about the wildlife that I saw as a child in those rural areas, unaware at the time of how much agriculture had already altered the land. And now as an adult, so much of both wildlife and those family farms are gone. The envelope paintings are my homage to both,” she says.
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A Socially Anxious Character Disguises Itself As Owls, Pigeons, and Other Birds in Textured Sculptures by Calvin Ma
In his ongoing series titled Blend In: Making Home, artist Calvin Ma (previously) conveys an incessant need to belong through a quirky character camouflaging itself as different birds. From owls to pigeons to Mandarin ducks, the precisely hued costumes envelop the figure in a mass of feathers and scaled footwear. The artist textures the ceramic sculptures by hand, etching countless lines into every plume.
Each species represents an emotion or experience tied to social anxiety, which Ma bolsters with corresponding environments, like a birch cage or flower-lined nest. “Being shy, timid, and a bit socially awkward is something that will always be a part of me. The goal is to come to terms with it and grow from it,” the artist says of his own experience.
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Watch the Birdie: A Restored Brass Gadget Dating Back 140 Years Reveals a Historic Photography Trick
Prior to asking subjects to grin and “say cheese,” photographers would entreat those awaiting a portrait to “watch the birdie.” Now generally out of use, the phrase dates back to 1879 and references a technique to capture both kids’ and adults’ attention at just the right moment: Photographers would attach a little brass bird to the top of their lens—the 1950s film Watch the Birdie erroneously positions a songbird on the main character’s hat rather than his camera—and squeeze a pneumatic bulb, making the creature chirp and flap its wings as they snapped an image.
Austria-based Markus Hofstätter recently restored one of the historic gadgets, a process he demonstrates in a new video. He begins by degreasing the 140-year-old pieces, 3D printing a new base, and finally attaching the water-filled device to his wet plate camera. After removing the lens cap and blowing into a tube, he reveals the bird’s whistles.
For more tutorials and explorations into historic photography techniques, check out Hofstätter’s YouTube and Instagram. You also might enjoy these similarly chirping antique boxes that feature singing bird automata. (via PetaPixel)
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From an Egyptian vulture with wispy feathers to a cockatoo with a vibrant fanned crest, Tim Flach’s expressive portraits convey the subtleties and bold features of birds around the globe. The London-based photographer (previously) focuses on endangered and vulnerable species throughout his work, which includes a range of animal portraiture. “I am also interested in the perceptual divide between sentient beings. There is a sense of awe and wonderment and there is always an uncertainty about what will reveal itself on set. I like to encourage thoughts about how we see each other,” he says in a statement.
Flach’s avian portraits, in particular, are shot to reveal human-like qualities, collapsing the differences between species. He compares the black-feathered head of the long-tailed broadbill to a fighter pilot’s helmet and the mustachioed Peruvian Inca tern to an iconic artist. “This for me, is the Salvador Dali of the bird world,” he writes on Instagram, noting that the longer mustache indicates a stronger immune system, making the bird more attractive as a mate.
To explore more of Flach’s striking photographs, check out the five books he’s published, in addition to his Instagram, where he shares his portraits and idiosyncratic details about the avian subjects.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
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